Funding gap more than triples to £35million for 2020/21 for Northamptonshire County Council

The funding gap was briefly discussed at cabinet this afternoon
The funding gap was briefly discussed at cabinet this afternoon

The expected funding gap for Northamptonshire County Council in 2020/21 has increased by £23.7million in just six months.

The significant funding gap now stands at a whopping £34.9million, but in February it had been £11.2million.

A report on the council’s Medium Term Financial Plan shows that there is an additional £10million expected on demand-led services such as adult social care and children’s services, with the figures also taking an expected two per cent increase in inflation into account.

The report states: “Despite an overall underspend in 2018-19, the council’s financial position remains fragile, and the council is yet to make a full financial recovery. The council has considerable financial risk because the demand for its statutory services in adult and children’s social care, is volatile in nature and increasing year on year.”

But the drastic change in figure highlights that the council is not on the ball, according to Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Chris Stanbra.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The Conservatives have been telling us that things are a lot better, and that Matt Golby has a firm grip on the finances, but this update tells us that they don’t. These numbers have tripled in just a few months.

“This sets the situation out very starkly. Some of it is from savings that can’t be delivered this year – we already know that children’s services are struggling to deliver £6million of savings they said they would. But it’s also a combination of inflation and demand led services.”

The budget gap is so significant that ‘immediate attention is being given’ to address the funding shortfall. The leadership team at the council wants to ‘provide existing services in a more cost effective way through service redesigns, reduce duplication, and increase its use of technology’.

It will also prioritise ‘needs-based statutory services’ and ‘support local partners to deliver local services more efficiently’.

As a ‘last resort’ it will review services against the Core Offer [statutory services] ensuring discretionary spend is ‘minimised or ceased’.

Councillor Stanbra added: “If you have to find £35million, then you have to assume that some non-statutory services might be under threat.”

Addressing the gap at this afternoon's cabinet meeting (August 13), cabinet member for finance Councillor Malcolm Longley said a 'number of workshops' had been held looking at how to plug the gap.